Business

Tax Prep Checklist: 6 Types of Documentation to Bring to Your Accountant This Tax Season

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You’ve found the perfect accountant for your taxes. They understand your tax situation, what you need, and are willing to help.  

But what do you need to bring for your appointment? The longer it takes for an accountant to prepare your taxes, the more money it will cost you.

You might as well be prepared and ensure you have every single piece of paperwork and documentation that you need to before you walk into an accountant’s office.    

Here’s a checklist of what you should bring:  

Proper Identification 

To be safe, bring both a valid photo ID and your Social Security card. Your accountant, especially if this is the first time they’re preparing your taxes for you, will need to verify your Social Security number, the spelling of your name, and that the card you bring is in fact you. 

You will also need to bring the Social Security cards/numbers of any dependents you’re claiming and that of your spouse (if you have one).  

Copy of Your Most Recent Tax Return 

Be sure to bring your most recent tax return to the office. This gives your accountant vital information that they’ll need to file your taxes. 

Wage Statements and Income  

There are many ways to make money and only some of them come with accompanying forms. The two most common that you’ll encounter are Form W-2 and a variety of different Form 1099s.  

Check out this complete list of different wage forms you might receive (and therefore should bring to your accountant’s office):

  • Form W-2 (wage and salary income)

  • Form W-2G (gambling winnings)

  • Form 1099-A (foreclosure of a home)

  • Form 1099-B (sales of stock, bonds, or other investments)

  • Form 1099-C (canceled debts)

  • Form 1099-DIV (dividends)

  • Form 1099-G (state tax refunds and unemployment compensation)

  • Form 1099-INT (interest income)

  • Form 1099-K (business or rental income processed by third-party networks)

  • Form 1099-LTC (benefits received from a long-term care policy)

  • Form 1099-MISC (self-employment and other various types of income)

  • Form 1099-OID (original issue discount on bonds)

  • Form 1099-PATR (patronage dividends)

  • Form 1099-Q (distributions from an education savings plan)

  • Form 1099-QA (distributions from an ABLE account)

  • Form 1099-R (distributions from individual retirement accounts, 401(k) plans, and other types of retirement savings plans)

  • Form 1099-S (proceeds from the sale of real estate)

  • Form 1099-SA (distributions from health savings accounts)

  • Form SSA-1099 (Social Security benefits)

  • Form RRB-1099 (Railroad retirement benefits)

  • Schedule K-1 (income from partnerships, S corporations, estates, or trusts)

Additionally, there is a possibility you might have income that won’t be reported on a form. This includes small businesses where a client might pay you $500 for a service. You won’t have signed a form with them, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to report the income. 

Bring proof of that income when you go to the accountant’s office. 

Real Estate Documents 

Do you own a home or piece of property? There are a lot of deductions you can take if so. You should bring any documentation that includes: 

  • A recent home purchase 

  • A home equity loan  

  • Proof of paid real estate or property taxes  

 

 Proof of Expenses

If you’re planning to itemize your deductions, you need to determine all of your expenses.  

Try to keep it organized but bring everything you think you might need. You’ll want records of: 

  • Receipts 

  • Invoices 

  • Medical bill 

  • Charitable contributions 

  • Expenses related to job-hunting 

  • Mileage logs  

  • Education expenses 

  • Self-employment expenses 

  • Gambling losses 

  • Child care expenses  

  • Moving expenses  

  • Personal property taxes  

  • Real estate tax bills  

  • And more 

Be thorough. It’s better to have more tax documents than less. 

If you want to get your deductions and credits, it’s imperative that you hand over documentation that proves your expenses. This includes receipts, invoices, medical bills, charitable contributions, IRA contributions, job-hunting expenses, mileage logs, education expenses, self-employment expenses, and more. It’s better to bring too much documentation than too little.

Direct Deposit Authorization Form or a Blank Check 

This ensures that when your accountant e-files on your behalf that they are able to directly deposit any federal or state returns. 

 

That’s it! You’re now ready to save yourself time and money by heading to your accountant’s office completely prepared. Make sure you go to a certified CPA accountant to ensure that your taxes are done properly and that you get the maximum potential return. 

You’ve found the perfect accountant for your taxes. They understand your tax situation, what you need, and are willing to help.  

 

But what do you need to bring for your appointment? The longer it takes for an accountant to prepare your taxes, the more money it will cost you.

 

You might as well be prepared and ensure you have every single piece of paperwork and documentation that you need to before you walk into an accountant’s office.    

 

Here’s a checklist of what you should bring:  

 

Proper Identification 

To be safe, bring both a valid photo ID and your Social Security card. Your accountant, especially if this is the first time they’re preparing your taxes for you, will need to verify your Social Security number, the spelling of your name, and that the card you bring is in fact you. 

 

You will also need to bring the Social Security cards/numbers of any dependents you’re claiming and that of your spouse (if you have one).  

 

Copy of Your Most Recent Tax Return 

Be sure to bring your most recent tax return to the office. This gives your accountant vital information that they’ll need to file your taxes. 

 

Wage Statements and Income  

There are many ways to make money and only some of them come with accompanying forms. The two most common that you’ll encounter are Form W-2 and a variety of different Form 1099s.  

 

Check out this complete list of different wage forms you might receive (and therefore should bring to your accountant’s office):

  • Form W-2 (wage and salary income)

  • Form W-2G (gambling winnings)

  • Form 1099-A (foreclosure of a home)

  • Form 1099-B (sales of stock, bonds, or other investments)

  • Form 1099-C (canceled debts)

  • Form 1099-DIV (dividends)

  • Form 1099-G (state tax refunds and unemployment compensation)

  • Form 1099-INT (interest income)

  • Form 1099-K (business or rental income processed by third-party networks)

  • Form 1099-LTC (benefits received from a long-term care policy)

  • Form 1099-MISC (self-employment and other various types of income)

  • Form 1099-OID (original issue discount on bonds)

  • Form 1099-PATR (patronage dividends)

  • Form 1099-Q (distributions from an education savings plan)

  • Form 1099-QA (distributions from an ABLE account)

  • Form 1099-R (distributions from individual retirement accounts, 401(k) plans, and other types of retirement savings plans)

  • Form 1099-S (proceeds from the sale of real estate)

  • Form 1099-SA (distributions from health savings accounts)

  • Form SSA-1099 (Social Security benefits)

  • Form RRB-1099 (Railroad retirement benefits)

  • Schedule K-1 (income from partnerships, S corporations, estates, or trusts)

Additionally, there is a possibility you might have income that won’t be reported on a form. This includes small businesses where a client might pay you $500 for a service. You won’t have signed a form with them, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to report the income. 

 

Bring proof of that income when you go to the accountant’s office. 

 

Real Estate Documents 

Do you own a home or piece of property? There are a lot of deductions you can take if so. You should bring any documentation that includes: 

  • A recent home purchase 

  • A home equity loan  

  • Proof of paid real estate or property taxes  

 

 Proof of Expenses

If you’re planning to itemize your deductions, you need to determine all of your expenses.  

 

Try to keep it organized but bring everything you think you might need. You’ll want records of: 

  • Receipts 

  • Invoices 

  • Medical bill 

  • Charitable contributions 

  • Expenses related to job-hunting 

  • Mileage logs  

  • Education expenses 

  • Self-employment expenses 

  • Gambling losses 

  • Child care expenses  

  • Moving expenses  

  • Personal property taxes  

  • Real estate tax bills  

  • And more 

Be thorough. It’s better to have more tax documents than less. 

If you want to get your deductions and credits, it’s imperative that you hand over documentation that proves your expenses. This includes receipts, invoices, medical bills, charitable contributions, IRA contributions, job-hunting expenses, mileage logs, education expenses, self-employment expenses, and more. It’s better to bring too much documentation than too little.

 

Direct Deposit Authorization Form or a Blank Check 

This ensures that when your accountant e-files on your behalf that they are able to directly deposit any federal or state returns. 

 

 

That’s it! You’re now ready to save yourself time and money by heading to your accountant’s office completely prepared. Make sure you go to a certified CPA accountant to ensure that your taxes are done properly and that you get the maximum potential return. 

How The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) Affects Fantasy Sports

Fantasy sports is becoming increasingly popular, with 59.3 million people playing in the United States and Canada, creating a $7 billion industry. With this though, comes tax implications for winners.  The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) provides tax opportunities and drawbacks that fantasy players should understand.

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There is currently an ongoing debate how winnings should be classified and where they should be reported. Are the winnings considered gambling income or hobby income? The TCJA does not clarify the definition of gambling and to date the IRS has not weighed in as to whether fantasy sports winnings are hobby or gambling income. If fantasy sports are not considered gambling, then the hobby loss rules would apply. In this case, the TCJA eliminates the taxpayers’ ability to deduct any fantasy expenses even if there is fantasy income. Prior to the TCJA, hobby losses were deductible as miscellaneous deductions subject to the 2% adjusted gross income (AGI) floor.

Many have argued that fantasy sports are ‘wagering transactions’ thereby allowing fantasy sports losses to be deductible to the extent of their winnings. Previously, gambling losses were assumed to be the cost of placing the wager, but TCJA suggests that other expenses that are ordinary and necessary to execute wagering transactions are deductible. For traditional gamblers, this includes the ability to deduct expenses related to travel, lodging, etc., to the extent of winnings – but fantasy players may have different ‘ordinary and necessary’ expenses. Potentially deductible fantasy sports expenses under TCJA include: fantasy-related online subscriptions and magazines; cost of any office equipment/space exclusively dedicated to fantasy sports; 50% of food costs at fantasy sports draft parties; and cost of any punishments for losing in a fantasy sports league. Losses from other gambling activities, like traditional casinos, could also be used to offset fantasy sports winnings.

For casual fantasy players, the increase in the standard deduction under the TCJA will reduce the number of taxpayers that itemize, thereby eliminating any potential benefit of fantasy-related expenses, since the deductions allowed are classified as “other itemized deductions” on the schedule A.

For the serious fantasy player, treating gambling as a trade or business may be useful. It is important to remember that taxpayers who recognize profits on their schedule C will be subject to both income and self-employment taxes, so it may not always be beneficial to consider yourself a professional. In the case of the serious professional fantasy player, income and expenses will be reported on schedule C, negating the need to itemize in order to take advantage of the deductions.  The TCJA does have one downfall for professional gamblers; prior to the new tax law, gambling expenses such as travel and lodging were not considered gambling losses, which meant they were not limited to gambling winnings. This allowed professional gamblers to have a net loss on gambling activities. Under the TCJA, these expenses are defined as wagering losses, therefore are limited to the extent of gambling winnings. Those who identify themselves as professionals have the burden to prove their activity is regularly pursued full-time, and to produce a livable income. Taxpayers should expect to hear from the IRS when claiming to be a professional.

Whether a taxpayer is a professional or a casual player, it is very important to keep all records as the burden of proof is on the taxpayer. While gambling is reported on W-2G, fantasy sports sites typically issue 1099-Misc to players winning more than $600. The IRS suggested that the net method of reporting (reports winnings from contests less the entry fees for any contest won) was the appropriate way to calculate winnings, but not all fantasy sports sites comply. It is important for a taxpayer to know how the site they are using reports winnings.

In summary, under the TCJA, fantasy players may benefit by treating their fantasy sports as gambling and claiming fantasy-related expenses that were not previously deductible.

Important Dates In Post-Revolution American Tax History

The Revolutionary War was sparked in part by the British imposing taxes on the American colonists without their permission or consent.

Once the colonists had freed themselves from British rule, it was time to establish a government that could pay the debts it had incurred during the conflict.

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

1777 – Articles of Confederation

This was the first constitution of the newly formed United State. It favored decentralization of power, which means that Congress was not given the power to tax.

1781  – Report on Public Credit

Robert Morris, Superintendent of finance, wanted the federal government to own the debt it incurred then issue interest-bearing debt certificates while imposing tariffs and internal taxes.

His proposal was shut down by numerous states over the next few years.

1787 – Ratification of the Constitution

The ratification of the Constitution shifted the focus of power to the federal government and away from individual states.

This gave the federal legislature the power to impose tariffs and coin money, along with the flexibility to collect excises and levy taxes directly on individual citizens.

1789 – Tariff of 1789

This tax bill included the original 5% duty on imports, as well as a list of special items that would be taxed at specific amounts.

1790 – Report on Public Credit

This new tax plan worked on two basic principles:

  • Redemption – Congress would redeem at face value all the securities issued by the Confederation government. These old notes would be exchanged for new government securities with interest of about 4%. This plan aimed to intertwine the wealthy Americans who had financed the initial government with the new government.

  • Assumption – The national government would take on outstanding war debts of the states. This would concentrate the nation wealth into the hands of the wealthy merchant class so they would be able to invest in the nation’s economy and other critical innovations.

1791 – Whiskey Excise Tax

This was a tax specifically for spirit distillers and imposed a 7 cents to 18 cent per gallon tax. This was not a popular tax, as spirits were often used as a form of currency out west.

1794 – Uprising Quelled

North Carolina and Western Pennsylvania were in a state of civil unrest after being cited by the federal government for dodging taxes.

The federal government forced the states to send militia to occupy these territories and take down any organized resistance.

President Madison appealed to Congress for a Declaration of War against Britain as the tension between the two countries reached a head.

There was a lot of conflict over fundraising for the war, but Congress eventually settled on doubling the tariff schedule.

 

Important Dates In Colonial American Tax History

In the spirit of summer, we’re creating a series containing some of the important dates in US tax history.

blog dates in history

Credit: Matt Briney on Unsplash

Why is this something we talk about in July? Back on July 4, 1776, Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, a document that stated the American colonies wouldn’t accept British rule — or taxation.

But that’s just one key date in the history of American taxes. Let’s look at critical years and dates that lead up to the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

 1733 Molasses Act

This tax was imposed to keep the American colonies buying from the British West Indies and not the lower cost imported options. The imposition of this act was effective the first year then led to corruption.

 1764 Sugar Act

An extension of the Molasses Act, this act increased the tariff per gallon on molasses. It was enforced by prohibiting vessels from shipping directly to the colonies. Ships would have to unload their cargo, pay tariffs, then reload and proceed to the colonies. It also expanded what the Crown could tax.

 1765 Stamp Act

This act said that every official document in the colonies would need a stamp on it. This was done to solely to increase the revenue of the British government, which caused opposition to emerge.

 1766 Declaratory Act

This act repealed the Stamp Act while also declaring that the American colonies are subordinate to the British Government and so the government had the right to tax them. As you can imagine, this didn’t go over well.

 1767 Townshend Acts

This act taxed 72 addition imports including paint, tea, and paper. The revenue raised was to fund the salaries of colonial officers and its administration. The protests from this act eventually caused the Boston Massacre.

 March 5, 1770 – Boston Massacre

What started as a protest of angry American colonists harassing a single British soldier escalated to a bloody conflict where several colonists were shot and killed. This was used to fan the flames of anti-British sentiment.

 1773 Tea Act

This act established that only tea from the East India Trading Company could be sold in the American colonies. The new tea was cheaper, but it hurt independent shop owners, shippers, and smugglers, which is why it caused a backlash.

 December 16, 1773 – Boston Tea Party

Protesters dumped more than 300 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor in protest of the 1773 tea act.

 1774 Coercive Acts

The British pass a series of policies designed to reestablish authority over the American colonies. One of the provisions was Boston Harbor would remain closed until the colonist paid the East India Trading Company for the losses of the tea party.

 July 4, 1776

The Declaration of Independence is adopted after days of the discussions and 12 of 13 colonies agreeing to succeed. The actual signing of the Declaration didn’t occur until August 2.

 

Taxation is a large portion of why the American colonies felt it necessary to break away from England. Taxation continues to be a large part of America’s history, especially in the years immediately following the Revolution.

 

We’ll cover that time period next.

 

Three Financial Housekeeping Tips for the Post Tax Season

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You did it! Whether you’re patiently awaiting a refund or unenthusiastically writing a check, you can officially put tax season behind you. While tax time can be stress inducing for even the most seasoned accountants, not to mention taxpayers, it’s never too early to start preparing for next year. We always advise our clients to use this downtime as an opportunity to reflect on the past financial year and perform a little financial housekeeping.

1. Perform a year-end financial analysis

Having just reviewed your major financial documents for the year, you have a pretty good idea of your financial wins and losses. Taking a closer look with an open eye and willingness to learn can go a long way – in other words, use this last year’s financial experience to improve the future.

Analyzing your expenses can help identify ways to save more money. For example, consider raising your 401k contributions if you notice that your income rose last year and you are not maxing out currently. Or, if you aren’t there yet, committing to packing your lunch, or making your own coffee can add up throughout the year.

2. Consult with your accountant or financial advisor

Finances are complicated. After you’ve done your base analysis, consult with a professional for a deeper understanding. They can bring a fresh set of eyes to your financial situation and offer helpful solutions.

Maybe your goal is to buy a house this year. An accountant can help you prepare financially, compare different loan options, and explain how this will affect your taxes next year.

3. Implement new tools and strategies to track your finances

The best way to avoid a headache next April is to find ways to track and organize your finances throughout the year. Whether you file under a business or individually, there are simple things you can do.

For example, keep and organize your receipts. If you donate old clothes to Goodwill, be sure to take pictures of all items donated, and file your receipt now so you aren’t scrambling at tax time. Also, don’t be afraid to use technology to help you. Create an Excel spreadsheet to track your monthly expenses, or take advantage of mobile banking.

Final Note: With the recent changes to the tax law, it’s more important than ever to start planning now. If you have any questions about organizing your finances, we’re always happy to help – Just send us an email and we’ll talk.

WCBS Small Business Spotlight features Paul Herman!

Paul Herman of Herman & Company, CPA’s is featured on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight. Learn how the tax code changes will effect you!!

 

US Senate Presents A Different Take On Tax Reform

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

by Mike Godfrey, Tax-News.com, Washington

The Senate Finance Committee released its tax reform plan on November 9, presenting a draft bill with marked differences to that agreed by the House Ways and Means Committee on the same day.

The proposal was drafted by Finance Committee Republicans under the leadership of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), based on the Unified Tax Framework agreed by the Trump Administration, the House Committee on Ways and Means, and the Senate Committee on Finance in September 2017.

While said to adopt a similar “pro-growth approach” to the House Ways and Means proposal, the Senate plan differs in a number of areas.

The Senate bill would preserve the current seven income tax brackets, compared to the reduced four brackets proposed under the House bill. Under the Senate proposal, the zero tax bracket would be expanded, and a slightly lower 38.5 percent tax rate would be introduced for high-income earners (compared with 39.6 percent in the House Bill, in line with current law).

Both the Senate and House bills include a proposal to double the standard deduction, to USD12,000 for individuals and USD24,000 for married couples; to repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax; and eliminate the state and local tax deductions. Where the House bill would repeal the medical expense deduction, the Senate bill would retain it.

The treatment of the Child Tax Credit is also largely similar in both bills, with the Senate proposing to increase the credit from USD1,000 to USD1,650 (compared to USD1,600 in the House Bill). However, the Senate Bill would preserve the existing mortgage interest deduction, which the House Bill proposes to curb from USD1m to USD500,000.

The Senate bill also proposes to preserve the estate tax, which the House Bill would repeal for persons dying after 2024. The Senate bill also proposes to double both the estate and gift tax exemption for individuals, from USD5m to USD10m.

For businesses, the Senate Bill would also cut the corporate tax cut from 35 percent to 20 percent, but would delay implementation until January 2019. The bill proposes a new 17.4 percent deduction for certain pass-through businesses, which are taxed under the personal income tax regime, and enhanced Section 179 expensing. There is an exclusion from the deduction for specified service businesses, except in the case of a taxpayer whose taxable income does not exceed USD150,000, for married individuals filing jointly, or USD75,000 for other individuals.

The Senate Bill would tax multinationals’ offshore holdings under a repatriation tax proposal at lower rates than under the House bill. Cash holdings would be subject to a repatriation tax of five percent, rather than seven percent under the House proposal, and at 10 percent on non-cash holdings, rather than 14 percent as under the House proposal.

Both bills would cap the deduction for net interest expenses at 30 percent of adjusted taxable income, with exclusions for small businesses.

“This is just the start of the legislative process in the Senate. We expect robust committee debate on the policies in this bill, will have an open amendment process, and hope to report legislation by the end of next week,” said Hatch.

Trump Looks To Democrats To Shore Up Tax Reform Push

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

by Mike Godfrey, Tax-News.com, Washington

 US President Donald Trump has reached out to Democrat lawmakers to discuss tax reform, in a bid to obtain bipartisan support to get a package through Congress.

The President met with senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Joe Donnelly (D-ID), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) over dinner on September 12 to discuss possible support for a tax reform bill.

“I will tell you, for the tax bill, I would be very surprised if I don’t have at least a few Democrats,” Trump told reporters following the dinner.

The White House and Congress have so far failed to propose a joint comprehensive tax plan, despite months of negotiations. Trump has indicated that, if some members of the Republican party hold back reform, he may try to instead bring on board Democrat lawmakers to push through a bipartisan bill.

Hurricane Season Reminds Us about Disaster Preparedness

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

5 Keys to Disaster Planning For Individuals

Disaster planning is usually associated with businesses. But individuals need to prepare for worst-case scenarios, as well. Unfortunately, the topic can seem a little overwhelming. To help simplify matters, here are five keys to disaster planning that everyone should consider:

1. Insurance. Start with your homeowners’ coverage. Make sure your policy covers flood, wind and other damage possible in your region and that its dollar amount is adequate to cover replacement costs. Also review your life and disability insurance.

2. Asset documentation. Create a list of your bank accounts, titles, deeds, mortgages, home equity loans, investments and tax records. Inventory physical assets not only in writing (including brand names and model and serial numbers), but also by photographing or videoing them.

3. Document storage. Keep copies of financial and personal documents somewhere other than your home, such as a safe deposit box or the distant home of a trusted friend or relative. Also consider “cloud computing” — storing digital files with a secure Web-based provider.

4. Cash. You may not receive insurance money right away. A good rule of thumb is to set aside three to six months’ worth of living expenses in a savings or money market account. Also maintain a cash reserve in your home in a durable, fireproof safe.

5. An emergency plan. Establish a family emergency plan that includes evacuation routes, methods of getting in touch and a safe place to meet. Because a disaster might require you to stay in your home, stock a supply kit with water, nonperishable food, batteries and a first aid kit.

A Dozen Deductions For Your Small Business

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

By Bankrate

small business tax deductions

A small business offers plenty of opportunities for tax deductions. Just be sure to follow IRS rules.

Here are 12 that even savvy small-business owners and entrepreneurs sometimes forget.

the deductible dozen

1. Home office

To claim your home office on your taxes, the IRS says it must be a space devoted to your business and absolutely nothing else.

The deduction isn’t limited to a full room. Your home office can be part of a room. Measure your work area and divide by the square footage of your home.

That percentage is the fraction of your home-related business expenses — rent, mortgage, insurance, electricity, etc. — that you can claim.

There’s also a simpler way to claim a home office deduction. Consider both the regular and simplified methods of writing off your home office.

“I don’t agree that chances of getting audited are greater with a home office deduction,” says Zobel, a San Francisco Bay-area tax expert who specializes in serving the self-employed. The key is that you use the term “home office” the same way the IRS does. The tax agency says it must be a space devoted to your business and absolutely nothing else. Deducting the den that houses the family computer and serves as a guest bedroom won’t fly with Uncle Sam.

“If you only have one computer and you have a child over 4, the IRS is going to be pretty certain that the child is using the computer,” says Zobel. “And the burden of proof is on you.”

The deduction, however, isn’t limited to a full room. Your home office can be part of a room. Just how much of the space is deductible? Measure your work area and divide by the square footage of your home. That percentage is the fraction of your home-related business expenses — rent, mortgage, insurance, electricity, etc. — that you can claim.

There’s also a newer way to claim a home office deduction. Read “Use newer, simplified home office deduction” for details.

2. Office supplies

Even if you don’t take the home office deduction, you can deduct the business supplies you buy. Hang on to those receipts, because these expenditures will offset your taxable business income.

3. Furniture

Office-furniture acquisitions provide two choices:

  1. Deduct 100 percent of the cost in the year of the purchase.
  2. Deduct a portion of the expense over seven years, also known as depreciation.

To take the whole cost in one tax year, use the Section 179 deduction. There deduction cap for 2016 taxes is $500,000, but may be adjusted for inflation in future years.

If you choose instead to depreciate the desks and filing cabinets, you can’t simply split the cost into equal portions over the depreciation period. Instead, you must use an IRS chart to make separate calculations each year.

Which is better for you? Anticipate the times that your business will need these deductions the most. Both options are reported on IRS Form 4562.

4. Other equipment

Items such as computers, copiers, fax machines and scanners are tax-deductible. As with furniture, you can take 100 percent upfront or depreciate (this time over five years).

Does your business need a new copier? Put it on a business credit card.

5. Software and subscriptions

Section 179 provides another tax break. New computer software a business buys can be fully expensed in the year purchased.

For business and industry-related magazine subscriptions you can deduct the total costs as a full deduction in the year spent.

6. Mileage

If you drive for business, the IRS wants to give you some of your money back. You’ll need documentation, so keep a notebook in your vehicle to record the date, mileage, tolls, parking costs and the purpose of your trip.

At the end of the year, you have two choices:

  1. Total the mileage and add in the tolls and parking to calculate your deduction. Once you have your mileage total, multiply it by 54 cents for your 2016 deduction. For 2017 business tax purposes, the rate drops to 53.5 cents a mile.
  2. Measure your business usage against your personal driving and deduct that portion of your auto-related expenses. Remember to include gas, repairs and insurance.

If you are leasing, include those payments.

If you are buying the car, factor in the interest on your loan and depreciation on your vehicle.

If your company’s office is at your house, you can deduct the entire business-related mileage, from the minute you pull out of the driveway until you return home.

If your business is not home-based, your mileage meter starts at your first business-related destination and ends at your last. You can’t include the drive to and from home. In this case, try to schedule several business appointments on the same day to allow you to take the mileage between stops as a tax write-off.

7. Travel, meals, entertainment and gifts

Good news, small-business travelers. You might as well stay in a nice hotel, because the entire cost is tax-deductible. Likewise, the cost of travel — air, rail or auto — is 100 percent deductible, as are costs associated with life on the road (dry cleaning, rental cars and tipping the bellboy).

The only exception is dining out. You can deduct only 50 percent of your meals while traveling. So stay at the Ritz and eat at Wendy’s.

Once you get home, your on-the-job meals aren’t deductible — unless you bring along a client to talk business. In this case, you might consider splurging on a fancier meal because then you can write off half such work-related dining costs.

The 50 percent deduction limit applies to most other client entertainment expenses, too. But a direct gift to a client or employee is 100 percent deductible, up to $25 per person per year.

8. Insurance premiums

Self-employed and paying your own health insurance premiums? These costs are 100 percent deductible.

This break primarily benefits proprietorships, but there are limits. The deduction can’t be more than your business’ net profit. And it’s not allowed if you were eligible for other health care coverage, including that offered by your employed spouse’s medical plan.

Did your spouse work for you last year? You can get the full medical premiums deduction on your return. As an employee, your spouse’s premiums are 100 percent deductible; if you and the children were on his or her policy as dependents, so are those costs.

Two caveats:

  1. Your spouse’s employment must be real, not in name only, and you must offer coverage equally to any other employees.
  2. Failure to meet these requirements could result in a lawsuit, an audit or both.

You also can include some of the premiums you pay for long-term care insurance for yourself, your spouse or dependents.

9. Retirement contributions

Are you self-employed and saving for your own retirement with a SEP IRA or Keogh? Don’t forget to deduct your contribution on your personal income tax return.

10. Social Security

The bad news: If you’re self-employed or starting a small business, you have to pay double the Social Security contributions you would as an employee. That’s because federal law requires the employer pay half and the employee pay half. Self-employed workers are both, meaning the total will equal 15.3 percent of your net profits.

The good news: You can deduct half of the contribution on your 1040.

11. Telephone charges

You can deduct the cost of the business calls you make for business from home. When your bill comes in, circle the business-related calls, total them up and keep a copy. At the end of the year, tally your 12 bills and deduct 100 percent.

Regular fees and charges on your phone line don’t count toward your deduction. But if you have a second line installed and use it only for business, all of these charges are deductible.

If you use your cellphone for your business, you can claim those calls as a tax deduction. If 30 percent of your time on the phone is spent on business, you could deduct 30 percent of your phone bill.

12. Child labor

If you hire your children as employees at your business, you may be able to deduct their salaries from your business income if they meet certain requirements.

Also, there is no Social Security tax when you hire your child who is 17 or younger and you can deduct the salary as a business expense.

This break is available, however, only if you operate as a sole proprietor or as a partnership in which you and your spouse are the only partners. If your business runs as a corporation, then it, not you, is considered the employer and the corporation is not relieved of the tax liabilities.

Paul S. Herman CPA, a tax expert for individuals and businesses, is the founder of Herman & Company, CPA’s PC in White Plains, New York.  He provides guidance and strategies to improve clients’ financial well-being.

 

Any U.S. tax advice contained in the body of this website is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by the recipient for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code or applicable state or local tax law provisions.